Bringing hands-on projects where students develop 21st century technology to all high-schools across the US regardless of background.

Photo of Nikil Ragav
4 11

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  • Technology

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

November 12, 1998

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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The world is changing rapidly with technology like Machine Learning, IoT electronics, Computer Controlled manufacturing, Webapps, & Augmented Reality. These technologies aren't just staying in one industry but are becoming essential for unlocking efficiencies and new capabilities across every single industry and job level. What are students learning in high school? They aren't learning the technical skills to be successful in tomorrow's world.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The core solution is to design a suite of hands-on projects for students to build throughout high school. The goal is that students would build 4-5 projects each year. By the time students leave high school they would have built around 20 projects learning skills like Machine learning, laser cutting, soldering, and AR development! These projects replace one unit of high school class. For example, English class will be exactly as normal for most of the year except for a 2-week project in which students code a webapp that uses Natural Language Processing to anaylze poetry and find similes and metaphors. In Algebra, students might build a GameBoy-type device and code a Pong video game to learn about how the slope of a line, inequalities, and systems of equations are used in the real world. In biology, students might design a VR software to model protein folding in 3D instead of just seeing 2D line diagrams. In Orchestra, students might design their own violin and use a CNC Mill to manufacture it.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I am an inventor. My first patent I came up with in Middle School. I'd asked my science teacher for help to design the musical instrument's mechanics. With few resources, she couldn't help much. There was no place at school where I could build and assemble prototypes. I found an electronics parts outlet when I was looking for gears, and I remember the shopkeeper telling me - a 12 year old - "we don't have gears, but if you give us a 3D model we can 3D print them for you". I felt so empowered, yet so scared - where would I learn 3D modeling? I didn't take up his offer, using gears from an old toothbrush instead. Today, ~1000 schools have spent avg $800k to build makerspaces! >5000 have bought 3D printers, Yet most collect dust in libraries... Schools are investing so much in Equipment for the Future, but they're missing the curriculum and teacher training that will bring it to life!

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Usually we reach out to school district Superintendents and Associate Superintendents of Curriculum or Innovation. When a school district or independent high school decides to work with us and integrate inventcurriculum projects in their high school classes, we set up a pilot for the first year. The Superintendent, Principal, and we find an initial set of teachers willing to try the pilot. We go through their syllabuses and learn what sections students struggle with the most. Over a month, we build and write the project, integrating High-tech skills and Common Core standards. After this, we coach the teachers at a week-long workshop to work through the project as if they were students. For 2 weeks during the school year, students build the projects and an inventXYZ team member is at the school throughout to assist and observe. This whole pilot costs the school around $8k plus equipment.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our solution takes place directly in high schools. Not only are we placing a makerspace in every high school, our projects take place during regular courses (English, History, Geometry, etc). They integrate tech industry skills with Common Core requirements. This means that schools don't have to create an entirely new class, hire curriculum developers and hire new teachers. It also means that EVERY SINGLE high schooler learns these skills, not just the ~100 that could have taken the elective. Because of this, the program is super affordable, each project costing between $2-25 per student.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In 2019, we're running a pilot with a school district in Pennsylvania. We hosted a professional development session for the high school teachers, and 180 students are building our projects this year. We've consulted with a few schools & districts on their "high school redesign" processes after they heard us present at the National Superintendents Conference. In the past before starting inventXYZ, we've run 4 inventathon events in Houston Texas. Students got 2 days to make an invention with our expert mentors in Mechanincal design, computer science, and electrical engineering and access to makerspace equipment such as laser cutter, 3D printers, and soldering stations. We've serviced about 600 students attending 19 different schools across Houston, including several students from primarily underprivileged areas and almost 50% girls.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Over the next year, our goal is to expand to 2 more high schools and deploy more curriculum projects. We really want to learn as much as possible from teachers and students so we can streamline the projects as much as possible. We want the projects to be really easy to follow, be exciting, and leave teachers and students feeling empowered. We also plan to build 3 more projects, one focusing on VR, one focusing on music production, and one focusing on CNC milling. For this, I plan to hire a couple of Computer Graphics and Mechanical Engineering grad students to detail the project based on our outline and develop troubleshooting instructions.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • IT Infrastructure/CRM

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 16.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 16.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 16.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 16.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 16.7%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 16.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elijah Beach

This is exactly what is needed to engage and motivate student learning. Many students become disengaged in school because there is countless testing without the benefit of hands-on application. I'm rooting for you to succeed and hope that I may have an opportunity to experience the project-learning you detailed. I have one question. Did you receive your patent? If so, what specifically is your patent? Best of luck!!!

Photo of Nikil Ragav


Yes, I did indeed get awarded the patent. It's for a musical implement for percussionists so that you can play chords on a xylophone or marimba in a natural way.

Photo of Audrey Acken

Hi Nikil,

This is such an inspiring idea. Being at a school with a maker lab and where the curriculum has always been interdisciplinary, I have to say it not only changed my way of learning but it has truly ignited my passion for learning. Particularly with today's crazily interconnected world, I almost think it is not only desired but also required for education to be more hands on, more "problem solve", using knowledge content from all disciplines.

I think curriculum planning would be a critical component of the project. I particularly love the examples that tie technology to humanities/arts based courses, such as learning NLP with English class content. I can think of all sorts of interesting projects that would not only deepen the learning of the humanities and the arts, but also get students excited about the application side of STEM.

Our school actually offers a Design Thinking workshop for educators every summer I worked as a student coach there this past summer and worked with a bunch of humanities teachers on curriculum planning using Design Thinking. It was a rather eye opening experience for me as previously I had thought DT was more for STEM(y) builders and makers. I highly recommend the workshop for anyone who's interested in interdisciplinary education and teaching!

Photo of Nikil Ragav

Oh that's cool. I've met with Angi Chau before.

Would love to hear some more of your ideas about the curriculum projects. I think you're totally right about its value